New play ‘The It Girl’ pays homage to silent films

Two-time Barrymore Award recipient Amanda Schoonover starred in the Simpatico Theatre Project’s premiere of “The It Girl,” accompanied by a full house in the new Louis Bluver Theatre at the Drake.

Conceived by Schoonover, Brenna Geffers and Anthony Crosby, and directed by Geffers, “The It Girl” was an intimate portrayal of silent film actress Clara Bow. Along with her assistant, portrayed by Anthony Crosby (who was also a co-creator of the show), the play detailed the rise and fall of one of cinema’s first big stars.

The play ran from Jan. 20 to Feb. 7. “The It Girl” was approximately 60 minutes long with no intermission.

The play begins with the star, Schoonover, coming out to a podium at “The It Girl Awards.” The premise of the award show is an event to honor female stars of Hollywood. After a comedic monologue, technical difficulties begins to take over before the stage goes dark and the scene switch from present-day to the early 1900s.

Schoonover is transformed into Clara Bow, a New Yorker who sees an ad in a magazine asking women all over to submit photographs for the chance to act in movies. Lo and behold, Clara is called to audition and, at age 16, she beats out an experienced scene-actor at her own game. Bow is headed for the silver screen.

What made this production extra special was the backdrop screen used to display black and white messages typically seen in silent films. Simpatico has employed this tactic before, most recently in their fall production of “Watership Down,” hosted at the Mandell Theater at Drexel University. In that play, a large screen was used to project backgrounds of various scenes throughout. In “The It Girl,” the screen was used mostly as a transition to help the audience follow the story, similar to an actual silent film.

The rise of this young star in the 1920s was spectacularly portrayed in “The It Girl” — the money, the clothes, the happiness, the fame. It was only a matter of time before the inevitable occurred, and when it did, it was very dramatic.

Various scenes throughout the play see Clara exhausted, drinking in excess and working hard all the time. The climax hits when she cries out, falling to her knees and sobbing under a spotlight. Time slows down at this point and I’d argue that few had made it through that scene without experiencing some sort of raw emotion at the sight of our fallen star.

The play wraps up as quickly as it begins, with Clara standing up, the scene transitioning back to the award show, and Schoonover apologizing to the audience before running offstage.

A roar of applause let out as the show concluded, and what a show it was. Afterward, a small potluck was hosted in the lobby in celebration of the opening night, and the actors came out to meet the audience.

“The It Girl” was as exciting as it was dramatic and spirited as it was heartbreaking. The ever-classic tale of the peaks and valleys of fame prevailed as a wonderful premise to the story of America’s first “It Girl.”